By Troy Krause
When the school year comes to an end, students are typically thinking about things such as spending time at the pool or maybe getting a job.
Few of them are thinking about ways they can spend their summer days helping others, but a group of Redwood Area School District students did that very thing in June through a program known as Students Today, Leaders Forever.
The local group, which included Gykayla Gregg, Payton Benson, Andrea Cable, Sidney Peyerl, Aiden Dirlam, Mason Breidenbach and Tre Jones, spent several days in June traveling by coach bus across the midwest spending time serving others in need.
Students Today, Leaders Forever began in September 2008 when four college freshmen sat in a dorm room dreaming of a way to make a difference, and since its beginnings more than 5,000 youth have been engaged in service and leadership experiences.
The program has two main programs, including Pay It For-ward, which provides opportunities for students to get out and serve others.
The local students were involved in this program. That meant traveling to communities in South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.
“I first heard about it in school,” said Gregg, who said they watched a video about the program. “I thought it looked like fun.”
Benson said she has always enjoyed volunteering, and this looked like a good opportunity to do that.
The group was on the Pay It Forward trip from June 11-15 and were part of a much larger group that included other students from Minnesota, including some from Sleepy Eye, New Ulm and St. Peter. Gregg and Benson said at first it was a bit awkward to be on a bus full of people they did not know, but that feeling did not last very long.
The group got to know each other through different activities, as well as its service projects.
At different stops the group did everything from working in a food shelf to helping clean the trash out of a state park area.
Yes, it was hard work, but it was worth it knowing they were helping others, said Gregg and Benson.
“We had amazing leaders,” said Gregg, adding she met a lot of new people and made new friends through her experience.
“It was good to be able to help others out this way,” said Benson.
Those who plan to participate are asked to put down a $100 deposit in advance of making the trip. If they complete the project, they get their money back, but if they fail to attend the $100 stays with the program.
Both Gregg and Benson said they learned a lot on their trip, and both are hoping to do it again next summer. Benson is also going to be in-volved in a project through the organization that works with middle school students.
Page 2 of 2 - During a weekend, she is going to help a group work with younger students to do service projects in the metro area of Minne-sota. For more information about the program visit www.stlf.net.